Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/405/4612
Build Socialist Students and fight education cuts
The picture New Labour is painting for today's FE college students is bleak. Many are forced into badly paid jobs and, for those going to university, no prospect of getting out of debt for many years.
Ben Robinson, Socialist Students
In addition to the courses they have chosen, new students will find their timetables also include a Key Skills level to compensate for a lack of basic skills training in underfunded schools. This is a plaster to cover the cuts in education funding and in the wrong place at that. Many students simply don't go to these lessons, but for some, this means a withdrawal of cash.
The EMA (Educational Maintenance Allowance) scheme was meant to increase FE attendance, students with combined parental income of less than £16,000 a year receive £30 a week.
However, trials of the scheme showed more school leavers stayed in education when the weekly amount was over £30 and it was paid to all students. This would have cost the government £50 million - pocket change in budgeting terms.
Young people who want to relax without getting an ASBO have to spend money. To spend you have to earn, and in reality EMAs are simply a supplement to the low wages young people are paid in 'McJobs'.
Anyone in college this year who wants to go on to university can expect debts of £15-£20,000. Many students working to avoid debt don't have time to study!
All this is creating huge anger amongst young people and alienating many. The biggest cause for teenagers considering suicide or self-harm is school or college work.
There is no mass youth rights organisation, no one offering a solution to college students. Many are members of the NUS, but the NUS' work in the FE sector in recent years has been minimal, and has led an increasing number of colleges to disaffiliate.
International Socialist Resistance (ISR) and Socialist Students are campaigning together to try to change this situation. Along with the Socialist Party, we campaign for a new, mass workers' party. However, that doesn't mean that we cannot do work on our own.
We are aiming to have as many ISR/Socialist Students' stalls outside colleges and sixth-forms as we can when they reopen this year. Those that have Freshers' Fairs, should try and book stalls now. But even if there isn't one, nor even a students union in some cases, we can still set up stalls outside the college gates in the morning, lunchtime or at the end of the day.
We need to let students know that there is an alternative to the exploitation of low pay, to discrimination because you're young, to the no-hope future offered by capitalism and by New Labour. That alternative is solidarity, struggle, socialism.
In The Socialist 25 August 2005: